Growing up Chabad, I went to an all-boys school in Los Angeles. I was always very reserved and emotionally closed compared to my siblings and friends. People would always ask me why? What’s wrong? Are you okay? Well, here is what I was holding in all these years.
When I was in third grade, my teacher Mordechai Yomtov – the persons I was supposed to trust, look up to and learn from – sexually abused me. When someone you trust and look up to does something like that to you, it is very hard to trust anyone else.
It was one of my classmate’s birthdays and he brought some treats to share with all of us. Our teacher walked around handing them out. When it was my turn, I wanted the biggest one so I reach for a middle one. The Teacher pulled away and said, you can’t do that, if you want yours, you will need to come back during recess.
I stayed behind during recess so I could get my treat. We were the only ones in the classroom, he calls me up to his desk to speak to me and that’s when he touched me on my private parts. I immediately jumped back, totally in shock as to what had just happened. He was looking at me as if he wasn’t attached to his own hand. He asked me to come back closer in front of him so he can speak to me and he grabbed my hand and said “whatever happens in here between us must stay a secret”. As he was finishing his sentence, he began to touch me again. I told him to stop but he wouldn’t, all he would say was “it’s okay I won’t hurt you, it’s okay”. I felt like taking a knife and shoving it into his face so I didn’t have to look at him or go through this again.
I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything. It felt disgusting, but at the same time I thought I was special to him, and I was afraid of what he might do if I told him to stop. I also believed I must have done something to invite it, and felt ashamed. Even thinking about telling anyone scared me – I thought he would do something worse to me for telling people our secret.
This went on for quite some time but he did not do it to me every day. When I would see him walking through the hallways, I would turn the other way and walk very fast. Seeing him every day I went to school made me sick to the point where I didn’t want to go to school anymore. It was as if going to school for me was a punishment.
I remember one day in class he was asking everyone to bring their homework up to his desk. As I went up to his desk to hand it to him, he said “please hand it to me on the way out to recess so I can review it with you”, I said to him “No, I don’t want to review it with you”. He asked me to leave the classroom and wait in the hallway until he calls me in. To the left of the classroom, there was a fire extinguisher in a glass case, as I walked out of the class, I punched it with my hand and broke the glass. The principle came out of his office asking what happened and I told him that I banged into it as I walked out of the classroom. I did this because I knew what was coming and there was nothing that I was able to do about it nor was there anyone that was able to save me.
It came Chanukah time and our class was invited to an assistant living home to hand out menorahs to the residents. My whole class went during the day and it wasn’t so bad. My teacher asked me and a few other kids if we wanted to go to another one later that night nearby to do the same thing. Before I had the chance to day no, he immediately said that I am going and asked who else wanted to. One other kid said that he would go with us later that night. I thought to myself that whole night how afraid I was that something was going to happen tonight. Nothing did, until at the end of the night, he dropped the other kid off at home first. As he was driving me home he started talking about what was going on in school and if I told anyone what he had done to me. I told him that I never told anyone and that I would never because I don’t want him to hurt me.
He reached out to my touch leg and as he was rubbing it he said “I would never hurt you, I just think this should be our secret”
He then reached between my legs and started to touch me on my private parts again. As he tried putting his hands into my pants I tried pulling them out but he was too strong and he began to rub me for what felt like hours. He then asked me to give him my hand and he grabbed my hand and put it on his private parts and started rubbing himself with my hand. As he did this, I felt as if someone was strangling me and there was no way to stop it. He then began to put my hand into his pants, that’s when I yelled at him to stop and pushed his arm off of mine.
He dropped me off at home and I ran to my room and started to cry from what had just happened. I was too scared to tell anyone or speak to anyone about this.
I finally fell asleep and as it was time to wake up and go to school the next day. I told my mom that I wasn’t feeling well so she made me stay home. I couldn’t get out of bed all day and I was so happy that I didn’t have to go to school that day and see the person who I was most afraid of.
Wherever I went, I was scared that I would run into him; on the street, store, and even synagogue.
From that school year, I started acting out; at home, in school and towards others. Falling behind in school, bullying other kids and even wetting my bed till much later than usual. It ruined my childhood and my teenage years. Wherever I went, it came with me. There was nowhere I could go that to hide from it. In high school, I started drinking and smoking to try and push it deeper and deeper inside of me. One day when I was really hurting we had a party and I drank an entire bottle of alcohol to try to get through that day and I almost ended up in the hospital.
There were nights that I would wake up panting and sweating from nightmares from what had happened to me. There’s not one day that goes by where I don’t think about it. There are days where I think about it non-stop and I can’t get it out of my mind. Before I went to therapy, it was much harder for me to get through those moment, but now, I’ve learned some great exercises that help me throughout the day to make sure it does not ruin my day. Therapy has not cured me neither has it help erase my memory, rather, it has helped me cope with what I went through and help me with the feelings which I have been carrying around all these years.
Childhood abuse, like mental illness, is still a guilty secret. Those who have been abused, like myself, feel too ashamed to speak out and are afraid of the consequences and what people would think of me. Pedophiles cast a long shadow. Many victims go to great measures to escape the deep feelings of guilt and self-hatred that have been instilled in them by their abuser.
I sometimes wish that I had told people what I went through much sooner and I hope that people out there that have been abused tell their story and get the help that they deserve!